Arizona’s increase in exports help draw global business leaders

America’s Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship has come to Arizona this week with 45 representatives from 24 countries.

The representatives will visit a half dozen places in Arizona – from universities to tech companies – to learn about successful projects, share their experiences and identify collaboration opportunities.

Experts gathered on Monday for an event at Phoenix Union High School. They said Arizona is a hotbed for innovation and entrepreneurship. Arizona was one of four states in the nation to increase its exports from 2014 to 2015, according to the event organizer.

ACE provides a foundation for Arizona’s business leaders to extend their networks beyond U.S. borders, officials said. Thomas Guevara, deputy assistant secretary for regional affairs at the U.S. Economic Development Administration, said Arizona has an openness to international trade.

“When we look at Arizona and its success in export and trade, it’s a result of their willingness to create partnerships and reach out around the globe,” Guevara said. “And from there, sell the products that they’ve created through their investments in their creation and entrepreneurial system.”

As for future international partnerships for Arizona, Guevara said Arizona State University has drawn some interest.

“We can expect a lot of new connections and a lot of relationships being built,” Guevara said. “For example, one of our delegates, I won’t say from which country, came to me this morning before we started here and said, ‘I’d like to speak with someone from ASU to talk about potentially creating an engineering program in our country.'”

Antwaun Griffin, deputy assistant secretary for U.S. operations at the International Trade Administration, gives credit to the universities in the area.

“This community has worked really hard to become a hub for innovation,” Griffin said. “You have leverage with the universities in particular to make this more a hub of innovation and technology. I think it’s paying dividends in the job creation as well as being an attractive magnet for initiatives.”

Ninety-five percent of the world’s population is outside the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Griffin said targeting these potential consumers puts Arizona ahead of the curve.

“They’re planning to market themselves as a hub for economic opportunities in the future and shedding off that historical legacy of a stop-and-go traveling tourism destination,” Griffin said.

Griffin said the state also is well prepared for potential nationwide recessions.

“They’re now playing on a global stage, which does diversify the economy and make them a little more durable for economic downturns, which generally occur,” Griffin said.